July 2014: More publicity for some shy dietary components

There’s a degree of publicity surrounding the easing of raw material commodity prices in the light of an expected production supply over demand in cereals and protein crops in the 2014/2015 season.

The importance of these ingredients is high profile but what about the less publicised but equally vital components in the diet such as macro minerals, trace elements and vitamins? It’s important that producers don’t under-estimate their role in the ration.   

And as a nutritionist, it is equally important to weigh up the virtues of the protein and energy contributions from cereals and soya as well as the finer detail coming from the additional supplementation of premixes. Skimping on the premixes can lead to unexpected health consequences, but likewise we have to ensure that it is evenly distributed in the feed. 

About 97% of the ration contains about seven bulk ingredients including wheat, barley, wheatfeed, hipro soya, rapeseed extract and oil. The other remaining 3% of the diet can contain up to 30 ingredients, and more in some cases.

Categories of bulk inclusion are in this 3% with the macro minerals, limestone, phosphate and salt taking the lion’s share. When it comes to the smaller inclusion components such as the trace elements and vitamins, we would expect typically only grams of product to be distributed evenly through a tonne of finished feed. Mixer efficiency is therefore imperative.

Equally important are the levels of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Sufficient is required for the pig to express its genetic potential without showing deficiency syndromes that can manifest themselves in all manner of ways. Here are a couple of examples.

Thiamine  (Vitamin B1) for example is recommended to be added at a rate of 2g/1000kg of feed. It’s a water soluble vitamin which, with phosphorus, is involved in the energy utilisation of sugars and amino acids.  Deficiency can result in reduced nerve transmissions which can then affect muscular movement and feed intake. Although tiny amounts are needed, it is vital, which is why it is first mixed with other components into the supplement pack before further added to the feed mixer.  This sequential distribution and dilution gives us the homogenous distribution we’d be looking for before it arrives in the trough.

The mineral Calcium is available from commodity raw materials, but then balanced in the feed by a variety of minerals such as Dicalcium Phosphate and Calcium Formate and more typically and at much higher levels from Calcium Carbonate (limestone).

Calcium in limestone is thought to have similar digestibility characteristics as that from digesting calcium from milk. Around 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth and it has a fundamental role in muscle contraction and heart regulation.  It is absorbed in the small intestine, but Vitamin D is essential in this process to actively take calcium in solution from the lumen of the gut into the blood stream. 

Too much calcium in the diet can allow it to react in the stomach with fatty acids to produce indigestible calcium soap which then deprives the animal of both calcium and energy from the fat.

While keeping an eye on the commodity prices of the “big” raw materials this season, it mustn’t be at the expense of the premix quality and all the vital ingredients they contain. Even though we are using relatively tiny inclusions of certain ingredients, we have to make sure that the quality and provenance of them is beyond question. Premix suppliers need to ensure that the ingredients they procure meet these demands, or the long term effects on animal health can be in question.

> Born in Essex, schooled in Suffolk and a graduate of Reading University, Dr Phil Baynes has spent his career in pig welfare and nutrition. Now based in Cheshire, he runs Baynes Nutrition and is a consultant nutritionist to Provimi

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